Grace Fitzsimmons


Mrs. Fitzsimmons and Miss Wood were two of the teacher at Groveton when it opened in 1956.  Mrs. Kogelman came to Groveton in ’57, Mrs. Kelly in ’63.

When Groveton High School opened in 1956, it was the showplace of Fairfax County. This community was very, very proud of Groveton and some people resented such a big school and such a good school. They used to call it the country club. There were all sorts of rumors about the swimming pool which we didn't have, of course. We were so proud of our physical plant that teachers were told that there were to be no chairs against the wall, so that the walls would not be marred. On the last day of school we were all scrubbing walls so that we wouldn't be censured for it.

The thing that I remember mostly about that first year is that they immediately started building the new wing. We had just moved in and they started tearing down the room next to 206, and I was teaching in 206. The noise was very bad. I remember losing my voice. I had to talk above the hammering and so forth.

It was an all white student body. That time it was the style for the boys to wear their pants with the belts below the navel, and this was one of the things that the dress code specified -no belts below the navel. They had to pull up their pants. I remember one day one of the students was sent home because he had the belt below the navel and the father came to school. He was angry at the principal, but the principal backed the dress code for the school. Also the boys had to tuck in their shirts - they couldn't have their shirt tails out. Any type of jersey had to have a collar.

The girls had a code too. At that time we had no problem with short dresses because they weren't in style, but we had trouble with skirts that seemed to flip up every time the girl sat down. I can't remember what they wore underneath, maybe just a lot of petticoats.

The behavior was different. There were cautions on the P.A. not to display any form of affection, not even holding hands, which is very different from today, and they were not allowed to chew gum.

Everyone said grace before eating and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Each student had a card with the honor code on it and he was supposed to respect that card and live by it.
 
As far as the teachers go, we were asked, during the preliminary days before school started to address each other as Mr. and Mrs. so there were no first names in front of students. The men had to wear ties and coats. They had to wear something with a collar. I remember one very hot June day, the first day that I remember boys came to school without socks (this must have been 1960), the principal made an announcement on the P. A. that if a teacher had noticed in their rooms any boy who wasn't wearing socks, that the student was not to take the exam. They were to be told to go home. I remember looking around the room. I myself was not wearing stockings and I thought this was certainly an inconsistency because the girls were allowed to go without stockings, but the boys were not. There was a great deal of formality among the teachers, even a dress code. In fact, I remember the first teacher that ever wore slacks to the school. Then the next day somebody else wore slacks and that was it.

There are three things that I remember that were funny. Some  enterprising students got some bats and they brought them to school in a bag. When the last bell rang they let the bats loose all over and they really caused pandemonium. Another interesting thing that I remember was a musical that was put on by the teachers. Mr. Hupart, who is still here, was Sonny and another teacher was Cher. Also I remember a satirical sketch that was put on by the teachers satirizing the behavior of the students. One thing that they satirized was gum chewing. Also, a satire was put on by the students on the teachers.

When Groveton opened, Mt. Vernon was just a slum as far as Groveton was concerned. Groveton was the school and the showplace in Fairfax County. Groveton has always been the proving ground for all the other schools. From this school almost every school in Fairfax County now has someone who has taught at Groveton. At one time most of the principals at other schools had been in some administrative position at this school. For instance, after Mr. Chesley left here, he went to open Woodson. And the principal at Woodson was the assistant principal at Groveton when it opened. Almost every school in the county has had some contact with Groveton.

My first year at Groveton I was making $3600 a year. Very few students had cars. There weren't as many cars. People just didn't have as much money.

What surprises me is that the new Groveton spreads over such a wide area. It seems to me that they -the students and the teachers -would feel sort of isolated, rather than as a community.

The roads were very, very bad. It has just been recently that they were as good as they are today. In the spring I don't know how cars could ever survive. Fort Hunt was just an obstacle course. There's more traffic now, but it's a wider highway. It wasn't kept as well as today, and you just had to avoid holes. It was really dangerous.

Belle Haven was all built up except for Arkendale, which went very quickly after we moved in and Bucknell was already there. We didn't have the shopping centers we have today. Belleview was the shopping center.

I think Groveton's just a lot of small communities rather than one big community. And I really think that the people are so different. In 1956 when the school opened there was this common pride. This was the school in the county. I remember having some foreign visitors here, and how impress everybody was with the school we had here.

Volume One, Table of Contents
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